Chatty Divas on Pop Culture and Changing Values
I have been reading a lot of books by emerging writers, friends and fellow bloggers. All writers have a definite and distinct style of their own and approach their characters accordingly. It is difficult to say which story or genre is better than the other because it is like comparing apples to oranges. I love strawberries – what do you make of that?
A romance novel has to have a couple with issues who bicker till the end and then live happily ever after. A story with a troubled marriage has to have a third wheel of either gender, ready to swoop in on the defenseless Adam or Eve, whoever is the weaker link in the writer’s eyes. Stories of extramarital affairs are a class apart, especially in India when penned by Indian authors. The majority of protagonists end up going back to their husbands or wives, leaving the poor lover in the lurch.
Why only in books? Even movies until a while ago had this Sati Savitri mentality of tantalizing the masses, portraying a few clandestine moments between the straying couples and then yanking them back to their respective partners, in the name of tradition. While cinema has become bold and come of age, our Indian writers remain deeply entrenched in the middle-class mentality of morality and values. Here love adheres to the dicta of misguided elders and doesn’t revolt against the restrictions and rules imposed by the patriarchal society.
Love and morality in ‘Silsila’
Goodbye Love, Hello Duty
The very famous movie that comes to mind is ‘Silsila’. Amit (Amitabh Bachchan) and Chandni (Rekha) meet and fall in love but can’t get married to each other due to a tragic incident and Amit ends up marrying Shobha (Jaya Bachchan) Now comes the interesting part where he meets Chandni and they continue their interrupted romance on the sly. Chandni is a happily married woman but can’t resist being with her first love. The director was doing all right until he decided to listen to his mind and not his heart.
Amit and Chandni are brought to their senses and sent home to their respective spouses by the well-meaning director and story writer. Had the director been honest to himself he would have made sure true love prevailed, to hell with society and its wagging tongues. But he succumbed to the pressures of expectations of his orthodox viewers (and also his wife’s wishes). He took the easy way out by portraying Chandni as a sensible middle-class woman who goes home to her husband but only in body; her spirit and soul belong to Amit. He too apologizes to his wife Shobha and promises to love and cherish her forever.
I would have loved to watch the sequel to ‘Silsila’ and see how their wronged spouses accept them back and continue to live with them and not doubt even for a minute if history would repeat itself again. I think this kind of compromise is worse than committing adultery. Why would someone want to live with a person who loves somebody else? Nobody is happy in this scenario.
Karan Johar’s ‘Kabhi alvida na kehna’ was another muddled up story with a limp ending once again. Dev (Shahrukh Khan) has an affair with Maya (Rani Mukherjee); these two are unhappily married to Rhea (Preiti Zinta) and Rishi (Abhishek Bachchan) respectively. The two couples end up divorcing their partners but the end is truly Indian. The lovers don’t come together until they have stayed apart for a while and atoned for their sins, seems like that. Their exes give them the go ahead and that’s when they get together. Everybody is happy and no one is wronged once again, Bravo.
Rosy, Waheeda Rehman’s character in the movie ‘Guide’ was one of the most courageous ones of her times. Rosy leaves her aged and unfaithful husband to start life afresh with Raju guide, played by Dev Anand. This movie was an exception and greatly appreciated for its bold theme. I wonder what would have happened had the director let Rosy stay with her lord and master in spite of his wandering eyes and hands? The movie would not have been so successful, I am sure.
Waheeda Rehman & Dev Anand in ‘Guide’
Caretakers of Morals
‘Ijaazat’ (Permission) was another different film but for the last scene where Sudha ( Rekha) touches the feet of her first husband, Mahendar (Naseerudin Shah) as if asking permission to go off with her second husband (Shashi Kapoor). This gesture implying that unless he forgives her, she can’t be happy in her new marriage. The list is endless but like I said, times are changing and so are the films. Books will follow suit, I am sure, hopefully soon.
Writers compromise on their creativity by playing it safe and toeing the line. Nobody wants to cross the Laxman Rekha drawn by the caretakers of morality. They start off bold and upbeat but by the time it comes to clinching the deal, they develop cold feet and retreat into their corners where there is no friction or opposition. The bland taste of tried and tested mediocre success is palatable to their weak stomachs and blistered mouths. One needs to venture out of the comfort zone to achieve or at least try to achieve something new and wonderful.
Gambling on Love
It is a gamble you have to take, even then the results are not always as accepted or anticipated – but they are definitely different. It is better to turn a corner and encounter something magical than continue to go straight on a boring and monotonous road. Even an unpleasant experience is far better than the same old thing.
Anita Nair tried to do something different with her story, ‘Mistress’. I found it fascinating and couldn’t put the book down till I had reached the end. A very interesting story but the ending was again a bit safe and not outright bold. Chris arrives at a riverside resort in Kerala and falls in love with Radha, who is married to Shyam. They find passion and fulfillment in each other but Radha ends the affair when she realizes she is pregnant with his child. Both the men want her in their lives but Radha decides to be on her own. The story ends with her planning to lead an independent life, being positive and strong. The traditional values and society play a role in her decision; she doesn’t rebel outright but takes baby steps towards independence.
Another reason some writers take the path most traveled is due to the mindset of people; if someone writes about love then people assume it is the writer’s own love story. If the story revolves around adoption then it is presumed that the writer was adopted. In a few cases the sexuality of the writer has been questioned because they dared to write about homosexuality. Fiction is a beautiful genre and there can be so many wonderful, creative tales told by storytellers but the readers have to stop looking for connections between the writers and their protagonists.
It is true that there is a little bit of the writer in all their stories but it need not be in totality. It can be a mannerism here or a character trait there. Nobody puts themselves completely in their stories, when they do their works are called autobiographies and not fiction.
Not many people are willing to rock the boat and get their toes wet in the aftermath of the turbulence, they like to stay on course and reach the shore unharmed and unscathed. Only the movers and shakers have the privilege of discovering a new land and living their life joyously while abandoning the misgivings and doubts.
Don’t give up your ending to suit the market and never do what is expected of you. Write what you want to write, forget the surveys and the researches. Your passion will shine through your work and you will find acceptance, if not 100 percent at least 50 percent. But then this would be far more satisfying then a hollow, insipid and predictable win.
Disclaimer from the author! The views expressed in this article are solely mine and are not meant to hurt the sentiments of the writers and directors .
Sulekha Rawat, along with Kriti Mukherjee, brings east and west insights into Chatty Divas, their blog on ‘Lassi with Lavina’
Check out Sulekha and Kriti’s site: www.socialpotpourri.com